Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition defined by extreme mood swings which include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). From individual to individual, the intensity of the condition varies, with some people experiencing extreme highs and lows multiple times a year or only going through an episode a few times in their life.
While the condition has no cure, symptoms can be managed through a treatment plan and the diagnosed individual can live a full and happy life. Any diagnosis of mental illness in a loved one can be a hard thing to cope with and accept, with feelings of sadness, confusion, fear, and guilt all completely normal in the process.
To support someone living with bipolar disorder and to support yourself along the way, here are a few tips.
Websites, books, and articles can help you come to terms and exactly what a condition is. The more you know, the less overwhelmed and scared facing the illness will be, plus the more understanding you can show towards your loved one going through it.
The best thing you can do to support someone is to listen without judgement or presumption. Although learning alone can help a lot, each individual experiences a complex series of emotions, thoughts, and symptoms that only they can express themselves. It’s also important to not dismiss all their thoughts and feelings as a part of their illness, people with bipolar disorders still have valid points when it comes to sharing their experiences.
Spend time together
A common symptom of bipolar is socially withdrawing, so encouraging interaction is essential. It may be hard if you are facing multiple rejections but it’s important to remember it isn’t personal and to keep trying.
Make a plan
Bipolar disorder is an unpredictable illness, so even when things are good, it’s important to have a plan when things are not. Discussing this plan with your loved one, other family members, and health care professionals can ensure you are ready for anything and leave you feeling confident about the future.
Notice their symptoms
Noticing and understanding what certain behavior means is key to knowing when to put that plan into action. Someone living from bipolar may not understand when they’re experiencing their symptoms, so it’s useful to know the signs to look out for.
Routine, routine, routine
Following a regular schedule can do wonders for your health and is key to staying healthy when dealing with a mental illness. Encouraging regular exercise, sleep, and eating schedules have been shown to support overall health.
Take care of yourself
It can be intense caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder but it’s extremely important to remember that you won’t be able to help them as effectively if you don’t take care of yourself. For some tips in supporting yourself as a caregiver, check out this article.